Aisha is a thirteen-year-old refugee living in London. Happy for the first time since leaving her war-torn home, she is devastated when her foster mother announces that a new family has been found for her and she will be moving on. Feeling rejected and abandoned, Aisha packs her bags and runs away, seeking shelter in the nearby woods.
Meanwhile, a few doors down, twelve-year-old Zak is trying to cope with his parents’ divorce. Living in a near-building site while the new house is being refurbished, he feels unsettled and alone. Discovering a piece of rubble with the original builder’s signature set into it, he starts researching the history behind his home – and in doing so finds a connection with a young soldier from the past, which leads him to an old air-raid shelter in the same woods.
Both children, previously unknown to each other, meet in the heart of the ancient city woodland as they come into the orbit of Elder, a strange homeless woman who lives amongst the trees – and, as helicopters hover overhead and newspapers fill with pictures of the two lost children, unexpected bonds are formed and lives changed forever . . .
Blurb above from Amazon. I found it a bit dissatisfying – there are indeed 2 lost children in the plot, but there’s another child who is central to the story, and I found it peculiar that she’s missed out of the blurb. Having said that, there are parts within the story where she discusses her invisibility, so perhaps the exclusion is intentional?
There’s been a lot recently in the media about diverse books and how we need more of them. This book is definitely diverse, featuring families built up from people all around the world. There’s a wealth of information about different cultures, as well as the local and individual histories. There’s more at play than just the present too, with strands of other worldly happenings that reminded me of Alan Garner books from my childhood.
With all that said, what can sometimes worry me is diversity for the sake of diversity – where books are put forward just because of the boxes they tick. That’s not this book. It’s not about ticking boxes, it’s about telling stories, weaving tales from past and present, far and near around the world, and bringing them all together in a wonderful crescendo. This is the first Sita Brahmachari title I’ve read, and I requested it on Netgalley because both Big and one of her friends recommended previous titles. It certainly won’t be the last one I read – I’m planning on raiding Artichoke Hearts from my daughter’s shelves very soon.
I loved the characters in this book, particularly the children (although there’s a strong supporting cast of adults), and I longed for them to find their answers. I didn’t quite cry at the end, I think because it felt so right. It is very emotional though – there’s such a lot going on and so many threads to tie together.
I’m sorry if this review feels a bit vague – I really don’t want to inadvertently sprinkle any spoilers. Basically, I highly recommend this book.
Here’s the trailer if you’d like to see more